January 23, 2009
Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System by Nick Montfort and Ian Bogost, mentioned here previously, is now available from online and bricks-and-mortar booksellsers, including Amazon and Powells. The book is a detailed and accessible study of this influential videogame console from both computational and cultural perspectives, and is the first in the MIT Press platform studies series.
The book examines the relationship between the unusual hardware design of the Atari VCS (a.k.a. Atari 2600), the games that were created for it, and how those games influenced later titles and genres. Ian and I discuss the Atari VCS itself and six telling cartridges for the system: Combat, Adventure, Pac-Man, Yars’ Revenge, Pitfall!, and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. We delve into the technical specifics of the system, tracking developments in programming, gameplay, interface, and aesthetics. We hope you will find a lot to enjoy and learn from in the book!